Corona Virus & Disability, Episode Two

Graphic in blue and yellow which reads:
#COVID19 and disability. People with disability may have risks of developing more severe cases of coronavirus because COVID-19 exacerbates existing health conditions, particularly related to respiratory functions, diabetes, heart disease and immune system.  World Health Organization #coronavirus

Listen (29 min)
Floating on pandemic waves of news, fear, social distancing and mutual aid, Pushing Limits hosts cull from the news, blogs and articles written by disabled people, webinars & conference calls and personal experience to bring this overview.

Here’s more from the resources they’ve plumbed:

Eight Take Aways from Listening to the National Disability Community

A Spoon on the Seder Plate (with thanks to Sins Invalid)

No One is Disposable — Preparing for a possible hospital stay

omeless People Two to Three Times as Likely to Die

Free Masks in the East Bay– for you and your attendant (see below for details)

Corona Virus Proposals Leave the Disability Community Behind

I Will Not Apologize for My Needs

FREE COVID-19 Support Program for Chronic Disease Patients and Their Families

Round Table Participants:  Mark Romoser, Shelley Berman, Sheela Gunn-Cushman and Adrienne Lauby


Dear friends,

My wife and I have organized some out-of-work theatre costume makers to sew masks. We’d like to provide free masks to people with disabilities and their attendants for COVID. Do you want some some masks?

Good masks are important for people with disabilities since we can’t always practice the standard 6’ physical distance from our workers. In a perfect world we could all get the right protection. Since that’s not possible right now, we need to adapt and make do the best we can. This is a â€œharm reduction” approach, so be aware these masks don’t meet OSHA standards for virus transmission protection. You still need to wash your hands frequently, follow the other recommended precautions and maintain physical distance when you can.

As you know there is a nationwide grassroots mask making effort to assist healthcare workers and others to do their jobs or live more safely. There are many patterns and materials being developed. Elaine and I have looked closely at the various options, and I think we have arrived at three models of masks that are best suited for the needs of pwd’s at this moment. Finding a balance between breathability and protection is hard. This is all something of a work in progress, and we welcome feedback from mask users.

We expect to get some masks ready for distribution by some next week. (April 13-20) We intend to give each person two masks. So for example, if you have one attendant, then you would need 4 masks. If you have two workers then you would need six masks. We’ll try to include different color pairs so you can identify yours vs your workers masks. Having 2/person allows for one mask to be in service while the other one is either airing out, or being washed. (We think 24-36 hours on a window sill or paper bag is adequate for disinfecting fabric, but more research is needed on this)

The three options are as follows: (see attached photo, which illustrates both ties and ear loops). All masks have a metal interior nose strip for better fit, and different colors on the inside and outside.

  1. 1 layer cotton with 2 layers of NWPP (non-woven poly propylene, the same material which is used in medical grade mask; it has good properties for this application-I.e. good breathability combined with some virus protection). You put this mask on by using cloth ties. (Eg Bias tape or a ribbon like material)
  2. Same as above but with elastic ear loops instead of ties. (Meaning that there is a short section of elastic that goes around your ears. I don’t know the material composition so the ear loops may contain latex)
  3. Two layers of cotton with cloth ties. We think this option may be longer lasting if your preferred method of disinfecting was frequent soap washing and drying. (But we really don’t know for sure if that would degrade the NWPP or elastic loop mask).

The masks will be packaged in paper bags after being washed and dried. (Plastic should be avoided as much as possible for many reasons, including the fact that the virus lives much longer on plastic surfaces)  I think all of these materials should be safe for somebody with moderate MCS, based upon my own personal and very scientific sniff test, but if you are concerned about the NWPP, you might opt for the cotton model.

Please respond (prefer by email, directly to me) if you want some masks by including the following information. 

  • Your name and how many masks you need (based yourself + the number of attendants you have; 2 per person)
  • How many of each style mask you want (ie # 1, 2, or 3 above)
  • Whether you or your attendant can pick up the masks (will be on my porch in South Berkeley) If you can’t arrange this we’re happy to deliver them to you, so include your address and a safe location for drop off.

It’s ok to forward this email. We’ll have a limited supply of these, so if we do run out, or if you prefer, there are other options to obtain masks, such as through Disability Justice Culture Club, (910-722-9552), Mask Avengers, Make Me PPE or Theatre Bay Area. Some of these orgs are hard to access at the moment, (eg. are Facebook-based, only accept organizational applications, or are focused on recruiting the makers). If we run out I’ll help you navigate other sources, but let’s cross that bridge when we get there.

“Stayin’ alive” (a nice 20sec verse for that soapy hand washing),

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